Number of Welsh speakers in Wales falls for second decade in a row according to census
The number of Welsh speakers in Wales has fallen for the second decade in a row according to the 2021 census.
In 2021, an estimated 538,000 usual residents in Wales aged three years and over (17.8%) reported being able to speak Welsh, which is a decrease since 2011 (562,000,19.0%).
It means that there are 24,000 fewer Welsh speakers in Wales than there were 10 years ago.
The figure comes after the number of Welsh speakers decreased from 582,000 (20.8%) in 2001 to 562,000 (19%) in 2011.
The Welsh Government have a target of 1m Welsh speakers by 2050.
One of the main factors contributing to the overall decrease in the percentage of people who reported being able to speak Welsh between 2011 and 2021 was the decrease in children and young people aged 3 to 15 years who reported this skill, the ONS said.
The percentage of usual residents aged three years and over able to speak Welsh decreased between 2011 and 2021 in all local authorities except Cardiff, Vale of Glamorgan, Rhondda Cynon Taf, and Merthyr Tydfil.
The biggest increase was in Cardiff where some 6,000 more people could speak the language than in 2021.
Among children and young people aged 3 to 15 years, the percentage who could speak Welsh decreased in all local authorities between 2011 and 2021.
🗣️538,300 people aged three or older estimated to be able to speak Welsh according to #Census2021, or 17.8% of the population.
This is a decrease of around 23,700 people since Census 2011, and 1.2 percentage points lower than Census 2011.
— Statistics for Wales (@StatisticsWales) December 6, 2022
Shadow Welsh Language Minister Samuel Kurtz said the published census figures showed that the Welsh Government was out of ideas when it came to supporting the Welsh language.
“This is a deeply disappointing statistic that shows the Labour Government is further off meeting its Cymraeg 2050 ambition than it was when it set the target of reaching a million speakers in 30 years’ time,” he said.
“What lies behind this? Self-reporting is a flawed model of measurement, and with such a long-term strategy, with responsibility being handed from Minister to Minister as we approach 2050, there is little accountability around decisions impacting the language.
“While we fully support the ambitions of the Cymraeg 2050 target, the Census’ data shows the stark reality of a tired Government, in power for too long and out of ideas.
“Positivity around the language, showing that it is cool, modern and useable in day-to-day life is that way we can ensure the most beautiful language on Earth can flourish in its homeland.”
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